The human mind is a rational one, and logic usually prevails. Therefore, someone booked the Apples in Stereo to play the South Street Seaport, which is one of those wonderful regenerated dockland type things surrounded by restaurants and full of families and tourists. Following on from this profoundly sensible step of getting in an Elephant Six band who came close but never quite broke the surface of indie credibility, the support act was the Brooklyn Youth Chorus accompanied by members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
I went alone, because I wanted to go and no-one else did. Not usually an issue at gigs, but most gigs aren’t 60% children while it’s still bright with a teen choir supporting. I hung back, drinking a Cherry Coke. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, under the tutelage of an enthusiastic lady conductor reminiscent of one your average junior chorister might have had in school, finished with The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was epic.
Most of the kids went away, which was convenient, because pushing to the front after the support is one thing when you’re in Tripod or something, but knocking young Chinese families out of the way so you can dance by yourself to the Apples In Stereo is probably not kosher.
Robert Schneider and his ageing crew emerge in silver home-made spacesuit-type garb.
“What year is this?”
The vocoder-keyboardist responds, in a vocoded robo-voice: “2010”.
“Oh so this is our 2010 New York show.”
Schneider – and I should mention that he and all of the Apples are looking ridiculous – turns to the crowd to explain.
“We are from the future. We see a few months as just like a couple of days.”
A few laughs. They play a lot of songs from their new album, some of which are grooving. It gets darker, people dance more.
“Ah Gatorade. In the future we don’t have Gatorade because the water is so good. This is a great treat for us to drink Gatorade. Hey, does anyone remember Gatorade gum?”
More songs. Nods to older stuff, and maybe something off New Magnetic Wonder.
“I have a confession to make. We are not actually from the future. We’re just a rock and roll band.”
Well, thank god. I spent the first thirty minutes of the set with my heart in my mouth because I was so convinced that the Apples In Stereo genuinely were from the future. It got much more enjoyable after I realised it wasn’t the case.
They did most of my favourite songs: Ruby, Sun Is Out (“Does it matter if a song isn’t true, or is it better if a song is true? It’s not true right now, but it was true earlier so we’re gonna play the song.”), Can You Feel It?, Same Old Drag.
Once Schneider sheds the future-person persona, he becomes amazingly charismatic. He’s one of the nicest guys in indie rock – if you remember the week of arbitrary lists – and even with some extra beard, it makes you smile to hear him talk about writing songs in Kentucky where there are no city sounds or buildings. But always at pace.
The last time I saw the Apples was also the first time I saw Fight Like Apes and Big Monster Love, and I was barely 18 and Robert Schneider saying hello was a massive deal. I have the poster, signed by a couple of the guys, in my bedroom at home still. Interpolating some context there, just so you know.
It was a really good Apples in Stereo gig, but what makes the entire event a little more ridiculous was what ensued.
A man, probably a radio DJ, comes out after the Apples seem to have finished. He says some hypey crap about something and says how happy he is to have finally got the Apples In Stereo play too. People approve, and cheer. He claims we’re about to see “something special”.
So out come the members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, sitting at the front of the stage with their various stringed instruments and bows. Out come the Youth Chorus and their conductor. The Apples are squeezed into corners of the stage.
“This is a song I wrote for my son when he was going to sleep. I’m into physics, so I wanted to teach him about that and just have a cool song for him to hear.”
And the whole ensemble goes into Energy, off New Magnetic Wonder. When it ends, or it should end, the band cut out and the philharmonic bros carry it on, staccato on the strings, while Schneider and the Youth Chorus trade lines.
“The world is made of energy. The world is possibility. And the world is made of energy, and there’s a light inside of you, and there’s a light inside of me.”
It ends. The MC comes out again. Then everyone comes out again and they just do the a capella again.
Then there are half an hour of better fireworks than I’ve ever seen before, off the southern tip of Manhattan.
I stayed till the end, and then wandered off thinking about how ridiculously overblown and amazing and improbable a series of events had just taken place. But I was happy.